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January 14th, 2017

The Crowning Green

by Yael Ben-Chaim

As many seeds rest their spirits in preparation for the spring harvest, dark green vegetables persevere and grow throughout the cold winter months. Though not many farmers markets are open in January, those that are, are likely to have farmers selling broccoli. Broccoli originated in Italy in the 6th Century, and it is said that Thomas Jefferson brought broccoli to the United States, along with macaroni and cheese!

Broccoli is in the cabbage family, as evidenced by its crowning, flowering top and dark green color. California is the top producer of broccoli in the United States, but China is the world leader in broccoli production, producing over 8 millions tons of the nutrient-dense vegetable every year.

A single serving of broccoli has more vitamin C than an orange. Vitamin C is a winter vitamin essential; a great preventative against winter sickness, and a vegetable readily available in the midst of cold air and frozen grounds. , since so few fruits and vegetables containing it are available in the cold months. Broccoli is high in both vitamin A and vitamin K, both of which are helpful in bone growth and strength. Vitamin A helps to absorb calcium, an essential mineral for bone health, and as a fat soluble vitamin, vitamin A protects the bones.

Finally, broccoli has great preventative health mechanisms. Broccoli, as well as brussel sprouts, are full of sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound that attacks cancer cells.

Broccoli is best kept in the fridge, and lasts about five days in the cool environment. Broccoli shows signs of going bad when the crown turns yellow or light green.

Broccoli can be eaten raw and is delicious dipped in hummus or creamy dressings. In fact, broccoli is healthiest raw as the nutrients cook off with heat. To retain the nutritent density of broccoli, you can steam it, or if up for a culinary adventure, cook broccoli soup!

Try this recipe for Roasted Broccoli with Garlic from the Food Network

Ingredients:

  • One bunch of broccoli, cut into florets (small pieces) with thick part of stems cut off
  • 2 tables spoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Toss broccoli florets with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet. Spread out broccoli florets in an even layer.
  • Cook for 20 minutes or until stems are crisp and tender.
About the Author Yael Ben-Chaim

Yael is a food-lover, interested in local food systems and farmers markets. Follow Yael's blog posts on farmer market produce, recipes, and nutrition information. Yael is an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Maryland Farmers Market Association and is developing a seasonal food education program for MDFMA.